KINDLING – A Christmas story about giving, the real meaning of Christmas spirit

It was many years ago on a remote ranch in N.W. Colorado that this little story begins.  I was around six yeas old and we lived in a very rural area in a small wooden frame house heated only by one kitchen stove that was fired by wood and coal.

Everyone on a ranch or farm has daily chores to perform.  All of the livestock must be fed in the early morning every day.  My chore was to make sure that the wood box was full and the coal bucket had coal from the nearby coal house in the ranch yard.  We had an icehouse with blocks of ice cut from the nearby Yampa river.   Our barn kept the 1945 white Plymouth car, tack for the horses and the team that pulled the wagon to feed the livestock.  We did not have any running water in the house and drank water from the nearby river gathered with a bucket.  The outhouse was across the yard, having no indoor plumbing.   We used lamps for evening light.

It was late in the afternoon of Christmas eve when my mother asked me to bring in some more wood and coal for the stove.  She related that she was going to make some cakes, cookies and candy.

I rushed to the woodpile and gathered an armload of kindling and then to the coal house to fill the coal bucket.

I had visions of fudge and cookies running thru my young brain.

As darkness descended, my father came to the house from his evening chores that included milking our jersey milk cow.   This wonderful cow provided us abundant milk and cream, kept cool by a block of ice in the wooden icebox, now a valued treasure in antique stores.

The kitchen was filled with the aroma of chocolate, cookies, fudge and cakes cooling on the table.  I could hardly contain my mirth and joy and the upcoming feast of these homemade delacies.  Sugar had been rationed during World War ll and sweets were scarce around our house.

But, instead of offering me any of the treats my mother wrapped up the sweets and put them in sacks and into a cardboard box with some other packages.   Meantime my father had pulled the car to the front door and I knew we were going somewhere.  I was furious, how could they not share these treats with me.  This was just an outrageous act and I was full of disappointment as we donned our coats and hit the frozen dirt road.

We traveled four miles past Juniper Springs where there was a remote country store and post office and headed up a mountainous sagebrush ravine.   My mother was a teacher and taught school at the Saddle Mountain school in the nearby area.  Well named because she rode horseback to the school.

It was pitch black when we turned off the narrow dirt road and went down into a gulch and back up into a yard with a small cabin and lamplight glowing out of the cabin window.

“What is this all about?” I wondered.  Several dogs came barking at the car as we gather the sacks and approached the cabin door. From the dark entry way, I heard a man say, “Hello June, what brings you here tonight?”  That was my mother’s name.   As I entered the cabin, there were six children of varying ages sitting around the kitchen table.    I looked on the table and there was one tin pan of cornbread, the Christmas evening meal.

Out of the box came cookies, my beloved fudge, candies, and presents, the children were thrilled and laughing.  I suddenly went from being an angry little boy to being so proud of my mother.  How did she know that these children had nothing for Christmas?  But of course, she knew everything about this family as their schoolteacher.

Their joy meant everything to me, and I laughed all the way back home.  I was so proud of my parents.

I never got a bite of fudge, but I received a message of sweetness from my mother and father that I have never forgotten from many years ago.

Occasionally I will read about one of these family members in the local Craig newspaper as they have grown up and have families of their own.  I saw an obituary on one of the girls recently.

It was on this Christmas eve that I learned the real meaning of Christmas and that the real joy is in giving and not receiving.

I’ve written this story many times and we publish it yearly at Christmas.  I hope that it leaves a lasting memory in the minds of those who really wish to capture the true meaning of the Christmas spirit.